As you all know, last week we released our 2032 Strategy. It’s something I’ve been reflecting on as I’ve had the privilege of travelling around India over the past few days and attending the ASHA Learning Hub in Delhi, where I’ve met some exceptional students who are possible future recipients of our India Equity Scholarship.
It’s highlighted for me just how important it is that we meet our aspiration to ensure a greater diversity of students - local and international - succeed at our University, and I wanted to dig a little deeper into that aspiration with you.
As you may have seen in some of the media coverage of the Strategy, or heard at my address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, we are going to prioritise attracting students from disadvantaged backgrounds, setting aside places and giving them up to $25,000 over the course of their degree to support living expenses.
I see our drive to open the doors of the University for more students from disadvantaged backgrounds as central to our ambitions to be a world-class university, acting for the common good.
Every day when I ran the NSW Department of Education, I was confronted by the evidence that socio-economic status was such a powerful driver of educational outcomes. High ATAR scores so often reflect family education levels and income.
And since we released the Strategy, a number of our most senior academics have reached out to me telling me their story of being ‘first-in-family’ to higher education. They understand completely the extent of the challenge to not just get into a university like Sydney, but the support needed while studying to thrive here.
Education is the most powerful tool yet been discovered to overcome disadvantage and inequality. But if we are not vigilant and not committed to creating opportunities for students to flourish no matter what school they went to or what postcode they live in, then we run a real risk of entrenching educational disadvantage in Sydney in the decades to come.
In 10 years, when people talk about us, I want them to say is that Sydney is not just a place that is committed to being diverse and inclusive, but a place in which the most capable students – no matter where they come from – truly thrive. We could be proud of achieving that together.
I will shortly be announcing a Vice-Chancellor’s Advisory Panel to work with me on the ways we can best think through how we can identify and support those young people who have all the great attributes necessary to thrive at Sydney. Some of the state’s most eminent educators and leaders in our academic community are keen to help ensure we get this significant policy right.
Thanks again for the wonderful support I have heard from across our community for the aspirations in the Sydney 2032 Strategy. The work is all ahead of us, but we have something vital and compelling to work together to achieve.